101 pins: A pin for a friend
February 7, 2018
I didn't make it out of Steamboat Springs without giving up pin No. 100.
I went to the post office to mail pin No. 101 to my parents and I loaded another envelope to go to my brother, Eric, and his wife, Megan.
I figured they'd get a kick out of it and I didn't want to risk somehow not having one to give them after the Olympics. What if someone wants to trade 100 Olympic pins for a week's worth of helicopter rides? How would I explain to my brother what had happened?
So, away it went, No. 100, to a good home.
I found a good place from No. 99, too, before my flight left Denver early Sunday.
Fellow reporter, close friend and all-around-good-guy Scott Franz offered to give me a ride to Denver International Airport on Saturday, so once I was done packing — it was actually more like a surrender than a finish — made for Denver and met up for dinner and a drink with former Steamboat Pilot & Today sports reporter Luke Graham, now living in Denver and working for Regis University.
He covered the previous two Olympics for the Steamboat newspaper, in 2010 and, with me, in 2014, and taught me a lot about how to handle snow sports and an event like this in particular.
Luke and I worked several feet away from one another from the day I started at the paper to the day he left, in summer 2014. We weren't always close through that time and as the 2014 Winter Olympics approached, there was an unspoken competition between us, each trying to be in the right position to make the trip to Russia.
It wasn't dirty or nasty. It didn't spill over into anything else. But it was there, subtly but aggressively tackling winter sports stories, driving to make sure our work was sharp.
Fortunately, we both got the nod, and it was very fortunate. At least in my eyes, we made astoundingly good travel partners.
We shared a vision and a passion for what we were doing and an idea for how to do it and it all worked almost perfectly.
Away from the laptop, Luke led the fun, whether it was long debates in a Russian supermarket about whether or not the bottle of shampoo he was about to buy actually contained shampoo, or crashing an Australian Olympic team party and using a dreadful Aussie accent to mooch pizza and a few beers off the "it all sounds the same to us" Russian waitstaff.
We spent another 10 days in Russia after the Olympics, visiting Moscow and St. Petersburg, and those experiences were great, as well.
For some of the time Luke and I worked together we were just co-workers, hard stop. For some of the time, we got along fine in the office and fine out of it.
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For every day after Russia, we were close friends.
Luke was a dogged reporter with a mind attuned to seeing into the stories that mattered, and he's an excellent guy to take a trip with.
When we met up Saturday, 10 hours before my flight to South Korea, it was an easy decision to give him a Steamboat Olympic pin, No. 99.
With that, it was 98 to go.